EEI Curriculum Units That Support Climate Literacy

Today marks the official start of California’s Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. This event is bringing leaders and people from across the globe to celebrate the actions taken by states, regions, cities, companies, investors and citizens to mitigate climate change.

The summit is also a launchpad for realizing the commitments made in the historic Paris Agreement and an opportunity for the worldwide community to discuss ways to work together to lower carbon emissions.

Educators can use this current event and select units from the EEI Curriculum to engage students in discussions about climate change.

The EEI Curriculum features both science and history-social science resources to support student understanding of climate change. With an emphasis on developing an understanding of the complex relationship between weather, climate, and human societies, the materials identified below span grades from elementary through high school and are organized into three thematic groups for your convenience.

Foundational Climate Change Concepts

The eight Science and History-Social Science units featured below support development of foundational climate change concepts, starting in second grade, and continuing through fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.

2nd Grade: From Field to Table – History-Social Science

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Introduces students to ways that weather and climate affect crop production. Examines the effects of weather and climate on agricultural systems by studying California crops and the climates of the areas where they are produced. Students build awareness of the interactions between natural systems and human social systems.

5th Grade: Changing States – Water, Natural Systems, and Human Communities (Science)

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Introduces students to the role of the atmosphere in the water cycle. In this context, students begin to explore the consequences of atmospheric change as they examine the two primary ways water moves through the water cycle—evaporation and condensation—and how this movement of water is connected to humans and human communities.

5th Grade: Precipitation, People, and the Natural World – Science

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Establishes the basis for student understanding of California’s dependence on natural precipitation patterns. It explores the importance of precipitation to the state’s diverse natural regions and how human communities and economies rely on precipitation. Students learn how human activities such as burning fossil fuels are changing the quantity, distribution, and chemical characteristics of precipitation in California.

5th Grade: Nature and Newcomers – History-Social Science

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Examines how natural cycles (weather and climate) influenced early settlers as they traveled westward across America. Introduces the range of climates that exist across the United States and focuses on how changes in climate affect vegetation, wildlife, and settlers. Students learn that knowledge of natural cycles (like climate and weather) was critical to the survival of settlers, livestock and their economies.

6th Grade: Paleolithic People: Tools, Tasks, and Fire – History-Social Science

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Examines how the survival of Paleolithic people (Stone Age) depended on natural materials they found in the ecosystems in which they lived. Students study the tools these early humans used to extract, harvest, transport, and consume natural resources and make comparisons with modern times to discover differences and similarities between Paleolithic and modern humans’ reliance on natural systems. This provides the basis for students to understand how historic changes in the environment have resulted in major changes to the ways humans must use and adapt to their environment.

6th Grade: Paleolithic People: Adapting to Change – History-Social Science

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Explores how climate and climate change affected life during prehistoric times (Paleolithic era). Students recognize that natural forces, including climate, drive migration of living things (including hominids) in search of food and discover that that significant changes in weather patterns influenced the change from a nomadic lifestyle to an agricultural one.

7th Grade: Sun Gods and Jaguar Kings – History-Social Science


Establishes the basis for understanding how location, physical geography and climates of Mexico, Central America and South America influenced the development of Mayan, Aztec and Incan urban societies. Students differentiate among the climatic zones of these regions and learn how the varying climates influenced the ecosystem goods and services provided by the diversity of ecosystems.

8th Grade: America Grows – History-Social Science

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Examines how natural events like volcanoes affected the weather and climate patterns and influenced the economies worldwide causing significant migrations in the nineteenth century from Central and Northern Europe to the United States. Students discover how similarities between climates, natural systems and resources influenced where new immigrants settled and that connections between climate and ecosystem goods influenced their economic success.

Science, Origins, and Effects of Climate Change

The History-Social Science and Earth Science units below focus on the origin and science of climate change:

10th Grade: Britain Solves a Problem and Creates the Industrial Revolution – History-Social Science


Introduces the dramatic economic transformation that began approximately 200 years ago in Great Britain and ushered in the modern industrial world. Explores the shift that occurred in Britain’s primary sources of energy and the resources the people marshaled to solve their energy problem. Sets the foundation for understanding how the transition to an industrial economy changed global energy usage patterns and resulted in the release of increasing quantities of greenhouse gases over time.

10th Grade: Growth of Population, Cities, and Demands – History-Social Science


Explores how the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries influenced the growth of urban centers around the world. Students study large urban centers in Europe and investigate how the Industrial Revolution changed how people lived and used natural resources. They synthesize information about the growth of factories and the migration of people from rural areas to urban centers and how these factors affected natural systems, noting changes in air quality from the burning of fossil fuels to run factories and produce iron and steel. Students learn that there are environmental costs related to population growth and industrialization. Provides a basis for understanding the need to change laws, policies and incentives associated with natural resource use.

High School: The Greenhouse Effect on Natural Systems – Earth Science


Explores Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and how this effect creates a climate warm enough to sustain life on Earth. Using past and present climatic changes as a springboard, students study how some atmospheric gases function as greenhouse gases (GHGs) and how changes in GHG concentrations can influence global climate change. Students then investigate how natural processes and human activities affect GHGs in the atmosphere and the ways scientists predict climate change will affect our future.

High School: Rainforests and Deserts: Distribution, Uses, and Human Influences – Earth Science


Examines the role of weather, climate and latitude in determining the geographic distribution of biomes. Using geologic climate data and archeological evidence, students learn that climate changes over long periods of time can cause changes to the geographic distribution of ecosystems and directly affect human communities.

High School: The Life and Times of Carbon – Earth Science


Explores carbon as an essential component of life. As students study the movement of carbon between Earth’s reservoirs (atmosphere, ocean, terrestrial plants and rocks, soil and sediments) they establish a basis for understanding the global carbon cycle. An exploration of how the United States and other countries consume Earth’s energy sources leads to an understanding of how human activities alter the global carbon cycle and affect global climate change.

Climate Change and Public Policy

The twelfth grade Economics unit below engages students in analyzing climate change issues from an economic and public policy perspective.

12th Grade: Government and the Economy: An Environmental Perspective – Principles of Economics


Explores the role of government in environmental economics and the relationship between environmental and economic health. Students consider two sides of the issue: environmental protection policies can damage the economy; and unregulated economic activities can damage the environment. They focus on an emissions trading approach to environmental protection. They study Cap and Trade, as a mechanism to work within the market economy to reduce carbon emissions while providing business incentives to comply with environmental standards.

Additional Resources for Climate Action through Education

#Teach4Climate has put together a great list of resources to help teachers education students about climate and energy science, develop the skills to take action, and reevaluate teaching methods. Get the list here.

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